Advertisement
This Sept. 15, 2017, file photo shows Eric Kelley, right, being hugged by his lawyer Vanessa Potkin momenets after Passaic County Superior Court Judge Joseph Portelli granted Kelley a retrial during a hearing in Paterson, N.J. Prosecutors have dropped a case against Kelley and Ralph Lee, who each spent 24 years behind bars for a New Jersey killing before DNA tests linked a key piece of evidence to another man. Kelley and Lee were freed after their convictions were overturned last year, but until Friday, April 6, 2018, they faced a potential retrial in the 1993 killing of Tito Merino. (Photo: AP/Julio Cortez, File)

New Jersey's top law enforcement official is taking over a murder investigation from a county prosecutor and weighing statewide reforms in light of new DNA evidence that freed two men after nearly 25 years, NJ Advance Media has learned.

The move could lead to major changes in the criminal justice system in the Garden State, including a team inside the Attorney General's Office that would review wrongful conviction claims. 

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said his prosecutors would reexamine the case of Eric Kelley and Ralph Lee, who were convicted in the 1993 killing of a Paterson video store clerk. The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office had fought unsuccessfully to keep the two men locked up after DNA evidence surfaced in 2014 pointing to a possible new suspect.

"We're going to supersede the investigation ... to ensure public confidence in light of the criticism that has been leveled and the coverage of the matter," Grewal told NJ Advance Media in an interview, saying that while he had confidence in Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes, the issue required a formal inquiry.

The case has raised questions about the investigation that put Kelley and Lee in prison and highlighted how difficult it is for anyone to get out even after new technology undermines the evidence that led to their conviction. 

Read more.

Advertisement
Advertisement